US Foreign Policy: Domestic interests shape aid to Africa: As President prepares to travel to Europe for D-Day ceremony, 'Independent' writers assess his track record

IT IS not only the Somalia fiasco that has dislocated US policy on Africa. Commitments to become more involved in promoting democracy and development, and to provide aid, are being undermined by budget cuts. On 19 November last year, the US Agency for International Development (USAid) announced the closure of nine missions in Africa as part of cost-slashing that involved a 2 per cent cut in aid to Africa.

The announcement by USAid administrator Brian Atwood was accompanied by the brutal statement that the US 'can no longer throw away money on countries that fail to develop . . . sustainable development cannot be pursued in non-performing and non-democratic countries'.

Shortly afterwards the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, George Moose, was forced to reaffirm America's commitment to sustainable development in Africa but added that limits on resources mean they must be used in a flexible, creative and cost-effective manner. 'I assure you (Mr Atwood's statement) does not signal a change in the Administration's commitment to Africa, only in the way we do business'.

Despite strong global commitments by President Clinton in the run-up to his election, the US has not yet developed a new policy for poor countries. Cold War lobbies have been replaced only to a limited extent by commercial or Black American lobbies. Cold War support for leaders such as Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko, the Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi and Siad Barre of Somalia has left Africa with a legacy of dictatorships and been replaced in Washington by a vague but constantly repeated commitment to human rights and democracy. The new policy is to support African efforts to establish democratic governments and institutions, and to promote transparent government with a commitment to the rule of law and respect for human rights. Washington is also committed to helping to end conflicts and crises, encourage sustainable development and economic growth and increasing the private sector's involvement in Africa.

But simply withdrawing support from dictators - or in the case of Mr Savimbi stopping arms supplies - has not resulted in the dawning of democracy and in some cases, like Angola, has resulted in chaos. Somalia has made Washington wary of further involvement.

South Africa is the new focus for US policy in Africa but Cold War allies such as Zaire and Kenya have been dropped or marginalised. With supply bases at Ascension Island on one side of the continent and Diego Garcia on the other, the US has no vital strategic interests on the continent. The need to secure supplies of strategic minerals, the constant justification for involvement during the Cold War, has declined. The search is for plants with medicinal potential and the US fought for the right in the Gatt negotiations to be able to patent such resources without reference to the country of origin.

American aid to Africa is driven by domestic considerations and business interests - development co-operation is the same department as export promotion and foreign investment risk insurance. According to a recent Action Aid report on aid donors, the US gives the lowest percentage of its GNP in aid and most of it to the Middle East and Eastern Europe for domestic, political or economic reasons. Washington also remains resistant to debt forgiveness and has advocated policies in the Gatt to promote US business interests regardless of the effect on Africa's primary commodity producers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk